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Martha Jeanne "Jean"
Benjamin (Sorden)

August 19, 1916 – September 29, 2018

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Obituary for Martha Jeanne "Jean" Benjamin (Sorden)

Martha Jeanne Benjamin of Warrington, a longtime resident of New Hope, PA, passed away peacefully, surrounded by loving friends, at Doylestown Hospital on Saturday, September 29, 2018. She was 102 years old.

Known to all as Jean, she was born in Shelbyville, Indiana on August 19, 1916. She spent some of her childhood in Chicago, but returned to Shelbyville where she graduated magna cum laude from Shelbyville High School. Jean first took piano lessons at age 5 and quickly showed her unique musical ability. A gold medal in piano in a three state contest for Indiana, Ohio and Illinois led to a scholarship for advances academic studies and then a full scholarship in classical music performance at the Indiana University Bloomington. There she was trained by Professor Ernest Hoffzimmer, a student of Franz Liszt. Jean graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree. In college she joined the national sorority, Delta Delta Delta, serving as president during her junior year.

After graduation Jean relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where her father had retired. She quickly realized that there were greater and more lucrative opportunities for a popular musician rather than a classical one in this resort town. She focused on retraining herself to perform popular music and committed over 250 songs to memory. Her first pops engagement was at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami. Jean went on to perform in many popular hotels and night spots and worked with celebrities like Arthur Godfrey, Jane Froman and Joe E. Lewis.

A summer engagement at the Spring Lake Country Club in New Jersey brought Jean to the Mid-Atlantic region. She loved the area and eventually settled in Jenkintown with her husband, Dr. William Loper. A visit to a street fair in New Hope charmed both Jean and Bill and they moved to New Hope. After her husband passed away, Jean resumed her musical career. She was a regular at the Playhouse Inn, Chez Odette and the Black Bass. For 15 years she was the pianist at the Hacienda followed by 18 years at the New Hope Holiday Inn. Through her work she met and played for many celebrities including Victor Borge, Dinah Shore, Burt Reynolds, Diana Ross, Liberace, Shirley Jones and Robert Goulet. While playing at the Black Bass Jean met her devoted husband of over 50 years, Fred Benjamin.

Never one to sit idle, Jean played the piano at night, but during the day she operated the Benjamin Room furniture shop in Holly Berry Square in Lahaska. After years as a classical and popular pianist, Jean taught herself to play the organ. She went on to become the choir director and organist for St. Ann’s Church in Hampton, NJ and St. John the Evangelist Church in Lambertville and St. Agnes Church in Stockton. In addition to Sunday services, Jean organized and performed the music for hundreds of area weddings and funerals. At the time of her death she was still playing at St. Agnes Church.

Jean was a gracious and stylish woman. She was charming and quickly made friends wherever she went. She was an animal lover and treasured her pet cats.

Her beloved husband, Fred, died in 2016 after 54 years of marriage. He was the love of her life.

Jean is survived by an extended circle of friends and admirers, including her church musicians, choir members, the clergy and her church families at St. John the Evangelist, ,
St. Agnes and St. Ann. In her last years she relied on many good friends and their families, her St. Ann’s Angel Choir members, Seniors Helping Seniors and other caregivers.

Jean’s funeral mass will be offered on Friday, October 5, at 10:30 am at St. Agnes Church, South Main Street, Stockton, NJ 08559. Interment will follow at St. Ann’s Cemetery, Hampton, NJ.

There will be calling hours on Thursday afternoon from 3 to 6 pm at the Van Horn-McDonough Funeral Home, 21 York Street, Lambertville, NJ 08530 (vhmfh.com).

Donations in Jean’s memory may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105 (stjude.org).

To send flowers to the family of Martha Jeanne "Jean" Benjamin (Sorden), please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.

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First Visitation

When Thursday, October 4th, 2018 3:00pm - 6:00pm
Location
Van Horn-McDonough Funeral Home
Address
21 York Street
Lambertville, New Jersey
Additional Information
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Mass of Christian Burial Information

When
Friday, October 5th, 2018 10:30am
Officiating
The Very Reverend Robert Kolakowski
Location
St. Agnes Church
Address
S. Main Street
Stockton, NJ

Interment Information

When
Friday, October 5th, 2018 12:30pm
Location
St Ann's Cemetery
Address
6 Church Street
Hampton, New Jersey
Book of Memories
(609) 397-0105 21 York St. | LAMBERTVILLE, NJ 08530 | Fax: (609) 397-9394 | Email: rtmcdonough@aol.com